Contest helps bring homemade recipes to market


For the second year in a row, the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) and Ohio Farm Bureau are sponsoring the Ohio Signature Food Contest, which showcases many local flavors and recipes ready for product development assistance.

This statewide competition helps encourage and foster additional food industry businesses in Ohio. Regardless of the stage of the concept, whether just a recipe or a packaging prototype, this is an opportunity to apply resources toward taking it to market.

The contest winner(s) will receive technical and business development assistance from CIFT, and that support has proven to be most valuable to last year’s winners, Cheryl Holsapfel of Garrettsville and Victoria Miller of Convoy.

“Prior to this (award) I didn’t exist. I didn’t have a clue how to structure a business or how to scale up my batches,” said Holsapfel, whose Hot Mama’s Pepper Jam was a co-winner last year. “Product development is the most important and it’s a delicate balance to get the science right. I didn’t know there were food scientists. I didn’t know about food insurance. There are all of these tangents and what I have learned (through CIFT) has been invaluable to get me started in the right direction.”

Miller, whose Raspberry Habanero Jam was a co-winner of last year’s contest, agreed. “I’ve met numerous people who want to get into the food industry, and I tell them all ‘Go to CIFT,’” she said. “They’re awesome, very, very knowledgeable. Whether it’s in regard to rules and regulations, or licensing, to kitchen equipment and recipes, my heavens they know it all.”

For the contest, participants submit a form outlining the basic details of their recipe and a general concept of the market and business potential. Emphasis is placed on products integrating Ohio ingredients when possible.

Finalists will be selected and food industry experts will evaluate each based on the viability of the product, commercialization potential, business strategy, marketability and overall appeal to the marketplace.

Finalists will be invited to present their business concept and food product to a panel of judges to determine the winner or winners. The announcement will be made during the Ohio State Fair in the Donahey Ag and Hort Building where Ohio Farm Bureau’s exhibit is housed.

As a result of the award, technical assistance from CIFT will be provided to the start-up businesses ranging from business planning, product/process development, shelf stability testing, labeling review, regulatory assistance, and batch product preparations for sampling. Production will be available at the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK) in Bowling Green. The NOCK is a nonprofit commercial facility that educates and advises new and growing businesses, provides access to a commercially licensed kitchen and networking opportunities with other similar entities and technical assistance.

Ohio Signature Food Contest

Deadline to apply is June 22 (only one product per applicant). See the contest rules and entry form. Contact Paula Ray, small business coordinator, CIFT, at 419-535-6000, ext. 117 with questions.



Kelli Milligan Stammen is director of publications for the Ohio Farm Bureau.